Islam has two beautiful celebrations that will be part of your life: Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Azha. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “For every people there is a feast and this is our feast.” [Sahih Bukhari]. Muslims throughout the world celebrate Eid-ul-Azha, the Festival of Sacrifice, timed towards the end of Hajj. Generally, the event is celebrated as a festival of joy with dressing up, feasting and having a good time with family and friends. However, there are deep and most significant lessons embedded in marking this most important occasion in the Islamic calendar. Both Hajj and its integration with it Eid-ul-Azha commemorate the trials and triumphs of Prophet Ibrahim (a) together with his wife Hajrah and son Ismail (a).
The history of Eid ul-Azha goes back to the time of Prophet Abraham, a major figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Eid al-Azha commemorates the great event when Allah asked Abraham(a) in a dream to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience.“And, when he [his son] was old enough to walk with him, he said, ‘O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you, so see what you think!’ He said, ‘O my father! Do that which you are commanded, if Allah wills, you shall find me patient.’” (Quran 37:102). As Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, Allah revealed to him that his “sacrifice” had been fulfilled. He had shown that his love for his Lord superseded all others, that he would make any sacrifice in order to submit to Allah. A version of the story also appears in the Bible’s Old Testamen
Some people are confused as to why Allah asked Abraham(a) to slaughter his own son. Famous classical Islamic scholar, Ibn al-Qayyim explained, “the purpose was not for Ibrahim to kill his son; rather it was to sacrifice him in his heart so all love belonged to Allah alone.” Thus, it is a part of our tradition that during the blessed Ten Days of Dhul-Hijjah and on the day of Eid ul-Azha we remember the sacrifice of Abraham. We reflect on what made him such a strong believer and one who was beloved to Allah, someone Allah blessed and made a leader of all the nations that were to follow.
Eid-ul-Azha, an annual Islamic festival, is not just about purchasing animals for mere enjoyment, neither is it all about storing the meat and cooking delicacies for days. There is a lot more to Eid-ul-Azha that is meant to bring out the best virtues in us as Muslims. On Eid-ul-Azha, we remember the trial Allah put Prophet Ibrahim and his family through four thousand years ago. Prophet Ibrahim and his family had unwavering faith that Allah knows best and they did not question His orders even once, not when Allah told Prophet Ibrahim to leave his wife and young son in the far flung desert of Mecca and not even when Allah ordered Prophet Ibrahim to slay his beloved son in His path. Prophet Ibrahim always submitted to Allah’s will without hesitation and Allah always rewarded him for his obedience and faith. By following the steps of Prophet Ibrahim, Muslims revive the same feeling of faith and submission in Allah’s will.
A spiritual, mental, physical and financial exercise
Muslims sacrifice a halal animal every year at the end of Haj, the holy pilgrimage of Muslims, a journey in which Muslims spend the best of their mental, spiritual and physical efforts, time and money. On the last day of Haj, Muslim pilgrims purchase the best animal they can afford, sacrifice it in the way of Allah, distribute the meat and also celebrate the occasion by feasting upon it. Muslims around the world slaughters a sacrificial animal in their respective hometowns.
Compassion for animals
In order to offer sacrifice, Muslims buy an animal, preferably a goat, ram, camel or bull, and take good care of the animal, thus grow attached to it.They learn compassion and realize that animals must be treated with affection and care too. It softens their hearts and makes them appreciate the creatures of Allah.
When people sacrifice in the way of Allah the animal they’ve grown fond of and would rather keep as a pet, they reach an entirely new divine level. They form a bond with God, proving that they can sacrifice something they love because Allah ordered it, just like Prophet Ibrahim did. Even if somebody doesn’t love the animal they have bought, they love the money they would have spent. And they would’ve spent it on something else but they choose to spend the money they love on an animal to please Allah. This practice teaches one to be generous in the path of Allah and not grow too attached to temporary worldly things.
Boost to economy
The economic aspect of the ritual of sacrifice is that the people who can afford to buy an animal do so and make payment to the sellers who are usually shepherds and farmers who make their living by rearing animals to be sold on Eid. In this way money flows from the wealthier section of society to the poor. Also, people distribute meat among the poor who get to eat meat as a result of the sacrifice offered by others. The skin of the animal is usually donated to charitable organizations. In this manner, the people who are less fortunate financially are taken care of.
The social aspect of the ritual of sacrifice is that people gather for Eid prayer and greet each other, feel a sense of camaraderie with their Muslim brethren, perform the ritual of sacrifice and distribute meat among friends and family.
They learn to care for their neighbours, friends and relatives when they share the meat with them instead of keeping it all for themselves. They meet with their friends and family, and celebrate the occasion by preparing a hearty meal and having it together. It is a good opportunity for mingling with people and enjoying their company. Even the poor who could not afford to offer any sacrifice of their own, they receive meat from others and in turn share it with their family and friends.
Each command of Allah is not just important for us, but it also contains a wealth of wisdom. So as you spend time taking care of your sacrificial animal and sacrifice it on any of the three Eid-ul-Azha days, keep all these lessons in mind and you will find a special enjoyment and spiritual satisfaction that you would have never felt before.
Ibrahim’s (a) willingness to sacrifice his most beloved possession, his son Ismail (a) and in turn Ismail’s (a) willingness to be sacrificed are considered as ultimate acts of obedience to the commandments of Allah.
The act of sacrifice symbolizes the willingness to give up things that are of benefit to us or close to our hearts, in order to follow God’s commands. It also represents our willingness to give up some of our own bounties, in order to strengthen ties of friendship and help those who are in need. However, sacrificing an animal is just symbolic. The real lesson from this sacrifice is indeed self-sacrifice, that of sacrificing our ego, self-interest, whims and fancies, our wrong desires, our corrupt behaviour, injustice and unfair treatment of others, friends or foes.
THE PRAYER FOR EID AL ADHA
The prayer for Eid ul Azha is Wajib(Compulsory) and consists of two Rakats with additional Takbirs (Muslimah, 2011). The logic behind these Eid prayers is to thank Allah for his infinite blessings.
Prior to the Eid prayer there is a Khutba, and it is necessary to listen to the Khutba.
THE SUNNAS OF THE DAY OF EID
The Sunnahs of the day of Eid include:
•To adorn oneself according to the shariah law by:
•Brushing one’s teeth, using a miswak if possible
•Wearing the best clothes that one possesses and white colored cloths are preferred.
•To wake up early for preparing for the sunnahs to be performed on this day
•To reach the place of prayer early
•To delay eating until after the prayer of Eid al Azha
•To walk when reasonably possible without any kind of hardship.
•To give the Takbirs of Eid.
•To return from Eid prayer taking a different route from the one that a person takes while reaching the place of prayer as established by the prophet’s practice (PBUH).
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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